Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Support local, or support best?

In a recent issue of BeerAdvocate the magazine a reader (and fellow BeerAdvocate member) clarified his position on the 'support local' idea.  In his feedback column (which is a limited space to write one's position) he stated that there one should support whichever brewery produces the best beers. In other words, don't support local brewers just because they are local; crap beer is crap beer, no matter who makes it.  I can understand this viewpoint, and agree with a point.

On a level playing field his point is valid. Just because one brewer is local doesn't mean he/she deserves our money, time and effort. Yet, this is the real world. The playing field is not level.  Big, chain breweries can afford the nuances that smaller, local guys cannot provide. When is comes to beer, maybe this is quality control, or sufficient production, or it could be that they cannot afford the extra electricity is takes to operate ceiling fans. Whatever the discrepancy may be, it is important to note that the local businesses of brewing cannot compete with the chain juggernauts head to head, and especially right of the starting line.

A local brewer needs to tweak recipes, brewing times, batch sizes, minimize expenditures (overhead stuff like AC), and still, perhaps, work another job.  Basically, they need time to fine tune his/her product. To do this, they sell their initial product to consumers, who in turn like it, love it, or hate it. Sometimes this version of the product isn't up to snuff, and the tweaking begins. They cannot take as much negative publicity as the big chains, and need more patience from consumers.  Sure, Flingers (see: Office Space) can provide quick service, comfortable AC, satellite television, and ice cold beer; that's expected from them.  But they have the capital to provide those.  Locals do not: They must start off slow and build up.  They need support.

But why should we support their business growth?  What's in it for us?  Several things:

  • After fine tuning their product, local brewers can provide awesome beer that is unique to them
  • Money spent on their beer, at their business, is kept local (for the most part. Credit/debit card acceptance costs a LOT of money to run and maintain, and that money goes elsewhere)
  • A local business values its customers more, and more personal attachments build
  • Customers can experience the growth themselves. They can witness how the beer changes from recipe to recipe, and be a part of the evolution of a particular brewery: the life of a beer
So, sure, I understand that if a brewery continues to make bad beer, or just beer that you don't like, to avoid them (or not support them).  But keep in mind that brewing beer takes time, patience, tweaking, and money.